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Pakistan's textile industry struggles to bounce back

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09th-Jan-2017       
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AFP, Faisalabad :
As Pakistan slowly emerges from a long-term power crisis, its once booming textile sector is scrambling to find its feet-but high energy costs and a decade lost to competitors mean recovery is far from assured.
Energy production was severely depressed for more than 10 years due to chronic under-investment, inefficiencies in the power network and an inability to collect sufficient revenue to cover costs.
The result was crippling for manufacturers and in particular the textile sector, which employs 30 percent of the working population.
Pakistan is the world's fourth largest cotton producing country but interminable power and gas cuts have stopped exporters from producing their orders on time.
A third of the production capacity of the sector has disappeared, thousands of factories have closed, and most of the others are running below full capacity, says Rehan Bharara, a former loom owner who now runs a public infrastructure project for the textile industry. Half the time, "we had to run our factories on diesel generators, which was very expensive. We decided to close down rather than losing money every day," he said.
Only those manufacturers which invested heavily in their own energy production survived.
These include plants run by the Sadaqat company, which provides house linen to major Western retailers such as Debenhams, Tesco and Target. Energy supply to huge printing, cutting and sewing departments is rotated according to need.
"We have three sources of electricity: the main and cheapest one is generation through gas, if we don't have gas, we go to Wapda (the public utility), if Wapda closes, we go to diesel generators," says chairman Mukhtar Ahmed.
"I have no choice. If I stop producing, we lose our customers."
Smaller plants, notably the hundreds of thousands of cotton loom workshops, lack backup generators and are dependent on the public network.

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